Is your smart meter actually working? And is it sharing your data?

Old smart meters that lose smart features after switching supplier are still being installed across the UK – and concerns have been raised about privacy settings

smart meters: Using a smart meter to cut down on energy use
(Image credit: Getty Images)

We're all being encourage to switch to smart meters so that we can monitor our homes' energy usage efficiently – and be billed accurately. However, research by supplier switching service Look After My Bills has revealed that eight UK companies are still installing first generation smart meters in UK homes – and they're not that smart.

The problem with these first generation smart meters? They're only 'smart' as long as you stay with the same supplier; if you switch, they then lose their smart functions. In fact, in some cases, these first generation meters have been reported to generate errors, leading to incorrect bills despite the promise for super accurate reporting of your energy usage to your provider. 

TThe second generation smart meters are supposed to be better, and to retain all of their smart features if you decide to switch supplier in order to save money, but energy suppliers including British Gas, Ecotricity, and Bristol Energy, have been installing first generation meters this year because of reported problems with the connectivity of the new meters. Scotland and Northern England have been disproportionately affected. 

There is some suggestion that these are not the only problems with smart meters, though. Concerns have been raised about the security of smart meters and about data being sold on to third parties. Nor are they guaranteed to save you money, with many energy providers encouraging customers to go on annual estimated tariffs anyway. 

The solution? You don't have to refuse a smart meter as such (although you can), but you can ask your energy provider to set your meter into a non-smart mode, disabling all data sharing. Contrary to what your provider might tell you, you have the right to do this. And if you go down this route, it really doesn't matter whether your smart meter is first or second generation: it will just operate as a regular meter, and you'll need to supply your energy provider with readings. 

And remember: the most reliable way to save money on your bill is by switching energy suppliers, not meters.